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Health - Overview - About the sector - Simple Text Content

Nanotechnologies have found promising new applications in all fields of human life, including medical practises.1 Nanomedicine, the interdisciplinary field that combines biology, chemistry, engineering, and medicine, has emerged to provide new solutions for medicine's unsolved challenges and complications. Nanotechnology based strategies have opened up new horizons for biomedical engineers and clinicians in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of various severe diseases. It has helped to significantly improve medical imaging and diagnostic platforms, drug delivery systems, implantable materials and tissue regeneration.2    

The small size of nanoparticles and changes of their physical and chemical properties compared to their macromolecular analogues offers many advantages for contemporary medicine. But the same differences in the physical and chemical properties of nanoparticles could lead to unpredictable side effects for the human body. Hence, the risks of these recently developed materials needs to be assessed. In the EU, the Joint Research Centre scientists are contributing to the reduction of uncertainties about the potential impacts of nanomaterials on health and are contributing to the development of a sound regulatory framework by providing informed science-based advice.3 

The health topic in this database is concerned with the application of nanotechnology to health and medicine but excludes wider healthcare issues. It does not cover the use of nanotechnology in other areas of health, such as vehicles related to healthcare or the use of nanotechnology in the electronic and computer-based systems that support healthcare. It focuses on current and future applications of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and treatment of:

  • Cancer 
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Infectious diseases, and
  • Neurodegenerative diseases

In 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO)4 reported that chronic diseases, also called noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), accounted for 73.6% of all deaths globally in 2019, compared to 60.8% in 2000. The increase is due to a decline in the number of deaths from infectious diseases as more individuals survive to older ages, where chronic diseases become the main health risk. The death rates from chronic respiratory, cardiovascular diseases and cancer have declined since 2000, whereas deaths from diabetes increased slightly. But due to population growth and increased longevity, the total number of deaths attributed to NCDs has risen. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases killed 33.2 million people worldwide in 2019, an increase of 28% compared to 2000. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption to health systems around the world. As of April 2022, there had been 50.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 6.2 million deaths from the disease. However, the excess mortality associated directly and indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic between the 1st of January 2020 and 31st of December 2021 was almost 15 million, or 9.5 million more deaths than the initially reported 5.4 million COVID-19 deaths during the same period. Nanotechnology has played a significant role in the development of vaccines against COVID-19 to combat the pandemic.

 

 


Nikolova, M., Slavchov, R., & Nikolova, G. (2020). Nanotechnology in medicine. Drug discovery and evaluation: methods in clinical pharmacology, 533-546.

Kargozar, S., & Mozafari, M. (2018). Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine: Start small, think big. Materials Today: Proceedings, 5(7), 15492-15500.

European Commission. (n.d.) Nanotechnology. Available at: https://joint-research-centre.ec.europa.eu/scientific-activities-z/nanotechnology_en

World Health Organization (2022). World health statistics 2022: Monitoring health for the SDGs, sustainable development goals. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240051157